Let’s face it: I know quite a bit about depression and chronic pain. I have lived it, and I have researched it until the wee hours of the morning. I’ve read books and blogs, articles and essays; I’ve written them, too. I’ve got the book smarts and the street smarts.
So I know that my spirit is often struck with a dizzying spell of depression around the same time my body is struck with a spell of pain and fatigue (a frequent visitor whom I call “flare-up”).
I have been trying to pinpoint just what I’ve done wrong to have brought me here, to this feeling of back-and-forth numb and sad, numb and angry, numb and anxious, numb and achy. Did I take my medication on time? And my supplements? When have I been going to bed? And how’s my stress level? Am I exercising enough? Am I eating well?
I look up symptoms of depression because I’m pretty sure I’m there again, where the air is thicker, and the vision is murky, and time either passes too slowly or too quickly–I’ve too much time to feel this way but not enough time to pull myself out of bed and get things done–there, in one of those dark, zany places where I forget important things like food and water or bills, or worse, I can’t recall what I enjoy, and I somehow forget the importance of waking up in the morning on time.
It’s not like I don’t know this place–I know it well. But I read about it again, just to make certain what I’m feeling is not just me, that I’m not the only one, that enough people have felt this way before that it shows up on a Google search.
I look up chronic pain, too, so I can read what it’s like, to make certain it is real, too, and that those doctors are wrong when they tell me it’s not. I read that other people know what it’s like, and these feelings of anger and frustration are normal–so normal that Google can tell me all about how normal it is.
Normal. As in, I might not be crazy unless these thousands of other people are also crazy in the exact same way.
It’s always the same: a deep breath in, an exhale out: some small part of me is always oddly calmed. I’m allowed to feel like this. I remember that it’s okay to be not okay, that things get better, and this is just temporary. Depression is real, but I don’t have to live right here, right now forever, and I can cope and deal. That God is in it and through it and amidst it.
I am frustrated that I have to be telling myself these things in the first place, let alone, to have to go through this so frequently. I’m angry that it is often easier to pretend I’m “just a-okay” than it is to explain how I feel to people who want to understand but can’t. Each social interaction is a choice between authenticity or ease. But I can’t blame them. I can’t understand my own pain sometimes, and I’m living it.
What’s most frustrating is the lack of control I seem to have over my own body. “Eat lots of fruits and veggies!” they say. “Pilates and yoga!” “Water! Lots of water!” “Vitamin D and fish oil!” Yes. Yes, I do all of those things, but it doesn’t magically heal you. Chronic pain is chronic pain. Depression is depression. I probably am in less pain than I would be otherwise, but that doesn’t mean the pain won’t ever show up again. (Did I mention “chronic?”)
I do all of the right things most of the time, and I have been doing them lately, but my world still began to turn grey, and here I am, in this place where it is hard to get up in the mornings, where I’ve been almost late to work every single day since school started back up again. Here, in the place where I fight back tears throughout the day, and if I’m lucky, grow numb by the time I get home, so I can work on schoolwork or clean or cook without wasting time crying about nothing in particular. I often sit on the couch for an hour (or two) telling myself that I need to get up and do something that makes me happy, trying to wrestle for control of my mind and spirits, repeating the mantra I can do this, that it will be good for me to push through and press on, but then I stay seated because I am just so tired.
This is the place where my bones and muscles ache, and I wake me up at night on the hour or two hour mark; my brain is foggy, dazed; I feel incredibly alone, even though I’m not; where I am not the person I should or could be because I have this nasty nebulous thing puppeteering my energies and endeavors. This is the place where I feel I spend each day wandering and floating–how the hell am I this tired when I can’t even remember what I spent the day doing?! Don’t even ask about how I feel when I see people with far more on their plate–mothers of small children or people working more than one job–and I wonder how I will ever be able to successfully maneuver my adult life with children of my own when I am in survival mode as things are.
I was having a rough day a couple weeks ago, still on the outskirts of This Place I Am Now, and one of my friends asked me how I was. I was honest with her. And her response back to me was, “What can we do about it?”
She wanted to help. She meant no harm, but I still had to fight back tears and silence the voice that told me, See? No one gets it. It’s always about you not doing enough. But how could she have known that my whole life is built around maintaining as much health as possible? How could she have known those things just weren’t working like they were supposed to be? She doesn’t know that every decision I make is weighed against the potential pain or fatigue it may cause me.
The answer to her question, then, is that there is nothing more I can do about it sometimes because I am doing all the right things-eating well, limiting sugar, taking supplements, taking meds, journaling, counting your blessings, positive framing exercises, physical exercise, doing what you love–and I can know all the right things–that this isn’t my fault and life will go on, and eventually I will be okay, and this is normal, and it’s okay to be not okay.
And I can still feel this way–crippled, ill-equipped, and defective, numb and uninterested, sad and angry, down and out, tired, depressed and confused, lost and more than a little lonely. And it’s not my fault.
There are moments when happiness is a choice, when you have control over the way you see and hear and feel things. And there are also moments when choosing happiness doesn’t do diddly-squat because you keep choosing it over and over again, and the machine is just not taking your coins.
So, what can we do about it?
All there is to say is what I always say when there is nothing else to say: This too shall pass, and Even so, it is well, and Even so, He is still good.
Lest I forget.